Cupid and Apollo
C UPID was the baby son of Venus. Although his mother fed him daily with nectar and ambrosia, the food of the gods, he never seemed to grow. The years passed by, and still Cupid remained a tiny, dimpled, laughing child, although he could fly and run wherever he wished and care for himself on earth as well as on Mount Olympus.
When Apollo was not driving his chariot, Cupid loved to follow him around, for he was more fond of Apollo than of any of the other gods. He was much interested in Apollo's bow and arrows and longed to take them in his hand.
Once he saw Apollo take his strongest bow and his sharpest arrows and set out to kill a huge, dark monster called the Python.
The Python was a gloomy creature that breathed heavy black smoke from his nostrils. This filled the air for miles around with darkness, and the shadows were so heavy that no one standing in the valley could see the mountain tops.
As Apollo was the god of light, he did not like the darkness, so he went straight into the shadowy valley, found the terrible Python, and killed him.
Cupid followed him so quietly that Apollo did not know he was there until after the Python was killed, and the darkness had lifted from the valley. Then he saw the boy standing beside him.
"Oh, your arrows are wonderful!" cried Cupid. "Give me one! I'll do anything you say if you will only let me hold your bow."
But Apollo laughed, and taking Cupid's hand in his led him back to his mother.
Cupid was greatly disappointed and decided that if he could not have Apollo's bow and arrows he would get some for himself. He knew that almost anything he wished for, Vulcan could make at his anvil, and so one day he asked for a bow like Apollo's, and a quiver of golden arrows.
Vulcan fashioned a little bow, perfect and smooth and slender, and a quiver full of the sharpest, lightest arrows.
Venus, who was watching, gave to these darts a power no large arrows had ever possessed. When any one was touched ever so lightly by one of the golden arrows, he at once fell in love with the first person he saw.
Cupid was so delighted with his bow and arrows that he played with them from morning until night.
One day Apollo did not drive his chariot, but left it in the heavens behind the clouds.
"It is a good thing," he said, "for people to have some gray days." So he spent the day hunting through the forest.
In a little glade he came upon Cupid sitting on a mossy rock, playing with his bow and arrows. Apollo was much vexed to think that Cupid could handle so cleverly the same kind of weapons that he had used to kill the Python. He frowned, and spoke harshly to him.
"What have you to do with warlike weapons, saucy boy?" said Apollo. "Put them down and leave such things for grown people."
Cupid was hurt and angry. He had hoped Apollo would praise him for his skill, as Venus had done.
"Your arrows may kill the Python," said Cupid, "but mine shall wound you."
As he spoke he let fly an arrow, which struck Apollo so lightly it barely scratched him. Apollo laughed at him and walked on, not knowing what the wound really meant.
Soon he noticed a beautiful nymph gathering flowers in the forest. Her name was Daphne. Apollo had often seen her before, but she had never seemed so beautiful as now. He ran forward to speak to her. She saw him coming and was startled.
"Let me help you gather flowers," begged Apollo, but Daphne was so shy she ran away. Apollo wanted so much to be with her and talk to her that he ran after her.
Poor Daphne, terrified, ran faster and faster. When she was breathless and could run no more, she cried loudly to Peneus, the river god, for help.
Peneus was her father and, hearing his daughter's voice from far away, he thought she was in some terrible danger. Swiftly he sent his magic power over the forest, and to protect her changed her into a tree.
Daphne's feet clung to the earth and took root. She felt the rough bark creeping over her shoulders and limbs. From her arms sprang branches, and her hands were filled with leaves. When Apollo reached out his hand to touch her, the fair maiden had vanished. In her place stood a beautiful laurel tree.
"What have I done?" mourned Apollo.
He was so grieved and sad because he had brought this change on Daphne that he stayed by the tree all the afternoon, talking to it and begging Daphne to forgive him.
He asked for some of her laurel leaves that he might wear them on his head. Daphne shook her branches, and a little shower of leaves fell around Apollo. By this he knew that Daphne forgave him, and he gathered the leaves tenderly in his hands and wove them into a wreath.
Throwing aside a drooping wreath of flowers which he wore about his brow, Apollo placed the laurel on his head, where it remained forever fresh and green.